How I got into photography



is an interesting story. At least I think it is.

Until about six years ago I had never been farther west than Arkansas to see relatives. My dad had wanted to take the family out west for as long as I could remember but I was always more interested in going to Disneyland and my mom backed me on this so it never happened. (Neither did Disneyland, funny enough) So in October of 2001, just one month after The Big Terrorist Attack, my dad and I set out on what was meant to be an aimless wandering roap trip vacation.

That is exactly what we got.

We took interstate 70 from Terre Haute, Indiana to Kansas City, Kansas and then jumped onto the two lane, following highway 50 through Kansas and Colorado, then cut south through Utah to Arizona, stopping at the Grand Canyon, and then took interstate 40 back home again. Mostly, when we woke up each morning, we didn't know where we would be at that night. Almost reminded me of a Jack Kerouac novel. For someone who never imagined the west could be what it is, it was a life changing experience. The rocky mountains have been in my dreams every night since, and the surreal landscapes of southeast Utah and the neverending Colorado Plateau haunt me to this day.

One of the highlights of the trip was of course the Grand Canyon, but that experience would have an added value for me, and this is where my persuit of the good picture began.

We were only at the canyon for a few hours but while we were there we happened to see a wild condor. Suddenly everyone around me began flashing pictures and peering through their binocs and we (my dad and I) had to ask someone what the commotion was all about, when they pointed to a bird about 80 feet away that we could barely see. I borrowed their binoculars and saw for myself how big and ugly and nasty looking a wild condor can be. I raised my ten dollar disposable camera, hardly knowing what it was I was looking at, and snapped away.

Fast forward about a week and I'm watching PBS one night and happen to catch a special about the United States' population of wild condors. Turns out there are only about 150 of them here. Of all the animals inhabiting the grand canyon area, it's one of the rarest to see. And I had a picture of one!

I quickly dug out my pics and found the one I thought would showcase the bird in all it's ugly glory, and it turned out the bird was about a centimeter tall in my so called "photograph". You couldn't even tell what it was.

Well never again, I thought.

Add that to a show a few days later about the life and art of Ansel Adams (also on PBS) and you can pretty much say I'm hooked. I've been reading books and buying up equipment ever since, trying to figure out how the pros get the pictures they do.